On 14 December 2017, it was announced that The Walt Disney Company had reached a deal to acquire 21st Century Fox. The deal itself is worth a reported $52.4 billion ($66.1 billion including assumption of debt) and will see Disney take control of most of Fox’s current assets. Here’s some more information about the potential repercussions of this groundbreaking deal.
Major movie studios
Hollywood has six major movie production studios: Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures, Columbia Pictures, Universal Pictures, 20th Century Fox and Walt Disney Pictures. What’s interesting is that once the deal goes through, Disney will own 20th Century Fox and will therefore effectively have hold of a third of all Hollywood movies produced by major studios. The deal will also result in the number of major studios dropping from six to five. This will very likely in the four other studios having to adapt: some could even follow suit and merge, or some could compete with the newly formed Disney-Fox mega studio in other ways – perhaps by concentrating on the streaming market? One thing’s for sure, the deal will have a huge effect on the industry and the other studios are surely going to have to adapt, it’s just no one can predict just yet exactly how they’re going to adapt.
Marvel Cinematic Universe
The current set-up regarding the Marvel Cinematic Universe is quite complicated: you have various characters that can’t appear in certain films by certain companies for various legal reasons. Both the Fantastic 4 and X-Men sets of characters have been ‘owned’ by 20th Century Fox and have been, up till now, unable to appear in Marvel Cinematic movies. They were sold off to Fox before Marvel became a subsidiary of Disney. Once the deal’s done and dusted, which is expected to be formally announced in a year or so, Marvel will pretty much have the full rights to those characters and will be able to use them in its movies.
Disney is known for having a very long-cultivated, family friendly image. It’s also known for its blockbusters – think the likes of Star Wars, Marvel, Frozen, the Pixar movies…Disney is essentially about creating wide-reaching movies that are huge hits. The problem is that a division of 20th Century Fox, Fox Searchlight, focuses on independent, more adult-oriented movies. Whereas Disney is more about box office smashes, Fox Searchlight is more about critical reception and award show success. The two are clearly very different, so how will this difference be reconciled? Will everything be able to operate as it did before, or will movie studios become ‘Disneyfied’. With the deal, Disney gains the rights to many IPs that you wouldn’t associated with Disney’s family friendly image, examples being Alien, The Planet of the Apes and American Horror Story. In a nutshell, Disney is purchasing the rights to a number of franchises that aren’t very Disney at all, so it will be interesting to see what happens further down the line.
Before the deal, Disney already owned a 30% stake through Disney-ABC Television Group. Once the deal’s finalised, Disney will gain another 30%, bringing its total stake in Hulu to 60% – Comcast and Time Warner will have the remaining 40%. With Disney majority shareholders, they would essentially be in control of what happens with the subscription video on-demand service. Disney already has its own streaming service, DisneyLife. It could simply use Hulu as a place to stream non-Disney content, or it could sell its majority shares and find some other platform to stream the wealth of new content it now owns the rights to.